A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that UNO & Friends is an app based on the popular card game. While in-app purchases are offered, ranging from $.99 to $39.99, kids don't necessarily need to buy tokens; coins and tokens can also be earned. The game will automatically use tokens that are amassed over time before pulling from the supply kids have won or purchased. There's no inappropriate content to be found in the game, and it provides detailed guidance to help them navigate the rules.
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What's it about?
UNO & FRIENDS features the same basic rules as the card game: Play a card that matches the number or color of the card on the pile, or take a new one, if nothing will work, and try to get rid of your hand first. Players need to declare "UNO" when they're down to one winning card, or other players can challenge you and make you take more. Special skip, reverse-order, and other cards are mixed in. Each card has a points value; the more points you have when the game ends, the lower you'll rank against the other players.
Is it any good?
Despite its name, UNO & Friends isn't an app designed to introduce you to new people: Users can't type in personal messages. The players you come in contact with have generically named avatars, and you can only communicate using pre-set terms. To play against friends, you'll need to invite them via Facebook or friend other users to invite them to future challenges. The game itself is pretty easy to figure out, and the app does a great job of providing written and visual instructions; the design also makes each step very clear. A light snakes its way around your avatar when it's your turn; card options that work with what's on deck are highlighted in your hand. To play a card, you just need to drag it to the deck.
Players can periodically participate in tournaments, and in addition to quick-play games, are given goals to meet, such as playing at least one red card or finishing third or better, which keeps the experience from getting boring. Once you play a few rounds, you'll unlock boosts that let you ignore a skip or reverse move, make opponents draw two cards instead of one, or take other actions that help keep things lively. There are a few small drawbacks: For example, each turn is timed, which helps keep things moving. But rounds also have a time limit, and it's frustrating if one ends when everyone is down to one or two cards. (UNO games don't typically last for hours; was there a need to include a countdown clock?) You also end up returning to the main title screen frequently when clicking from section to section, which can feel a bit cumbersome. The app's biggest issue, though, is that it's far easier than the standard card version. If you're on a winning streak, you can pay to maintain it, which isn't the best message to send; similarly, while offering a hint about what card to play can help keep kids from getting stuck, it takes a lot of the challenge out of the game. You can turn that function off, but the suggestions still seem to appear. But despite the clues and other advantages, UNO & Friends, much like the traditional handheld version of the game, is still generally a good time. A few tweaks to let users employ more logic and play out close games would make it even better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about friendly -- and not so friendly -- competition. How can you play games and not hurt someone's feelings if you win (or get upset if you lose)?
UNO rounds are timed. Does that make you feel stressed? How can you stay calm under pressure to get things done?
It's easy, with the challenges the app provides, to get sucked into some major playing time. How many rounds would be too many to play in one day? What are some fun things you could do offscreen?
For kids who love board games
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